Free and legal MP3: Winchester (stately epic)

Now this is how to start a slow song: with a stately, centered, melodic line, via a deep but elusive synth tone, in unhurried 6/8 time.


“I’m Not Ready to Go Yet” – Winchester

Now this is how to start a slow song: with a stately, centered, melodic line, via a deep but elusive synth tone, in unhurried 6/8 time. Add, without fuss, some subtle digital noise, and then a piano (acoustic or electric, can’t tell, but it sounds acoustic, which is the important thing)—and then, unexpectedly, an acoustic guitar, strumming crisp chords. We’re already a minute and twenty seconds into the song, there is still nothing but introduction in sight, but I am on board. (I’ve heard much shorter introductions sound boring and pointless.)

The singing starts, with a subtle lead-in from some shivery cymbals, at 1:58, a clean female voice, emerging so organically from the instrumentation that it’s hard to discern exactly when she starts. The song’s steady pace, measured out in deliberate triplets, becomes its anchor, its defining core, but don’t be so lulled you miss the turning point at 2:36, when a deep electronic pulse promises some as-yet unimagined transformation. Jittery synths supplant the piano around 3:15, and the digitalia accumulates as a preface to: guitars (3:54). Silvery, siren-y guitars, putting me in the mind of Explosions in the Sky, but here, initially, matched against the background acoustic rhythm guitar. Until the next turning point, at 5:14: the trembling electric guitar (maybe it’s just one after all) goes into full solo mode, joined at long last by the drums. Had you missed the drums? This is the first we’ve heard them, which I’m pretty sure illustrates (if everything else hasn’t already done so) how carefully this song was constructed. It’s easier to aim for epic than to get there but “I’m Not Ready to Go Yet” makes the journey and, to my ears, comes out the other side.

Winchester is the Toronto-based duo of Lauren Austin and Montgomery de Luna. “I’m Not Ready to Go Yet” is a track from their forthcoming debut EP, If Time is Not Linear Why Can’t I Forget the Past? (no release date set at this point). Thanks to the band for the MP3.

p.s. While I resist typographic idiosyncrasy here, you should know for the record that the band officially spells its name with capital letters and spaces, like this: W I N C H E S T E R.

Free and legal MP3: Black City Lights (grand & memorable, if you wait for it)

A slow-developing opening minute leads us eventually into something grand and memorable.

Black City Nights

“Rivers” – Black City Lights

I am a patient person—except when it comes to music. Songs that delay the entry of sensible structure or noticeable melody tend to annoy me, if I may be blunt. So I’m not sure how I managed even to listen to “Rivers”—with its 30 opening seconds of ambient electronic sounds and 30 additional seconds of instrumental introduction—without hitting stop and delete and moving on to the next thing. Sometimes, it seems, my ear hears things that my brain doesn’t initially latch onto. And I am in any case very glad I didn’t throw this one in the scrap bin, because that opening minute leads us into something grand and memorable.

It turns out this song, musically at least, is all about delayed gratification. After the long (long) introduction, the melody, in a series of ways, keeps edging near resolution and backing away. You can hear it, maybe, at 1:20, and then in an extended way at 1:40—note that Julia Catherine Parr then literally starts singing about being “so lost,” as the music retracts into background noise. We wait and wait and find deliverance with the line she belts at 1:57. I can’t understand the words but the music, at last, tells us the wait is over, and at 2:01 we plunge into something that feels deep and grounded, while also kind of sparkly and flowy. We are led to a point of resolution at 2:11 (on the words—no coincidence—“take you home”) that feels both solid and liquid: we resolve, and yet we keep flowing. The second half of the song is like that, at once robust and feathery, and the fact that it leads to a coda of heavenly voices seems exactly right. I suspect that not one moment of this song is accidental. It’s a fine ride, and reminds me to be patient in music as in life. At least sometimes.

Black City Lights is the project of Wellington, New Zealand producer Calum Robb and vocalist Parr. Either a sign of the times or a complete aberration, Robb just began writing and producing music late in 2010. “Rivers” is one of six songs on the Black City Lights debut EP, Parallels, released last week on Stars & Letters, a small NYC-based label. MP3 via Stars & Letters.